Harris Hall shows off Putnam County gardening

Sunday, August 10, 2014

When folks attend the annual Putnam County 4-H Fair, one of their favorite places to visit is the Agriculture Building, better known as Harris Hall.

The people who volunteer to help at Harris Hall spend hours organizing the events, finding sponsors, locating judges, getting equipment and materials ready, cleaning the building, setting up the tables and shelving, publishing the information booklets, publicizing events, helping folks with their entries on judging day, tending the displays and keeping the building open and running.

This year's Harris Hall superintendent was Meredith Bee -- a Master Gardener who, the rest of the year, is an elementary school teacher and a mom to a two-year-old. She and her Master Gardener husband, Randy Bee, had the building humming, mostly because they were at the fair all day, every day.

But since the Bees were rookies, they leaned heavily on the expertise of another couple who've been all-day, everyday Harris Hall workers for several years, including this year: Leroy and Linda Blocher. Thanks largely to the Bees and the Blochers, the events at Harris Hall ran like clockwork.

One of the goals of Harris Hall is to teach fair-goers about the remarkable flowers and herbs and produce that Putnam County grows. This year, as folks walked into the building, the first thing they saw was an example of our area's bounty: a spectacular arrangement of flowers and fruits and vegetables.

Bob Zaring contributed all the things in the display, all harvested from his own gardens, including gladiolas and coxcomb, sunflowers, eggplant, peppers, roses, kale and many other things. And Karen Ambler took everything Bob had brought, and created a breathtaking arrangement.

When people entered Harris Hall, the first thing they saw was this arrangement -- spectacular proof that our local gardens are capable of producing an enormous variety of beautiful, remarkable things. The display was made in honor of ladies who, in the past, have contributed immeasurably to the growth and success of Harris Hall: Wilma Chadd, Bonnie Zaring, Margery Zaring and Melba Huff.

The first Harris Hall activity was Friday's Lil' Sprouts event, when kids ages 4 through second grade got to enter their own exhibits to be judged. They were allowed to enter one each of several popular things: A zinnia, a sunflower, a marigold, a cucumber, a zucchini and a tomato. Last year was the first year for the Lil' Sprouts, and this year even more youngsters participated. The goal of this activity was to get even the youngest folks to think about gardening, and where food comes from, and the hard work that it takes to produce that food.

The next morning -- Saturday, the 19th -- began the week's hard work. Saturday was the day to show and judge single cut-flower specimens and container gardening. On Monday they judged the agriculture category (hay, honey, maple syrup) and garden produce and herbs. Then on Tuesday, people exhibited artistic arrangements.

Everything that was brought in was left on display throughout the week, including all the flowers and fruits and vegetables. Some of the most popular things fair-goers came to see included the biggest zucchini and the tallest corn and the tallest sunflower, the tiniest artistic flower arrangements, and the gorgeous market baskets full of produce.

On the last Friday of the fair, Harris Hall celebrated Awards Night. When categories offered awards for champions and reserve champions, and grand champions and reserve grand champions, exhibitors didn't just win ribbons and bragging rights. They also won prize money.

This year, almost 60 different individuals and businesses contributed toward these prizes. The people at Harris Hall are so grateful for the generous support they have received from the people of Putnam County. The prize incentives help to encourage new participants to bring their best specimens to exhibit at the fair.

The more folks participate, the better and more competitive the show becomes, and the Putnam County Fair has become an outstanding example of what we Hoosiers can produce in our own backyards.

Calendar of Events:

Aug. 17 - Last day of Indiana State Fair.

Aug. 18 -- Indiana State Fair 4-H projects released.

Aug. 22 -- My Record of Achievement due for 4-H'ers.

Aug. 25 -- Putnam County Fair Board meeting, Fairgrounds, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 1 -- Extension Office closed for Labor Day.

Sept. 2 -- Putnam County 4-H Council meeting, Extension Office, 7 p.m.